Paddling's Unique Perspective

Written by Cyril Jay-Rayon
Created Date: Sunday, 12 January 2014 21:30

Before I became an adventure racer, my paddling experience was limited to the occasional short excursions on plastic sit-on-top kayaks while on holidays in the tropics. That quickly changed when I become serious about adventure racing.

In order to become proficient at paddling, I spent a lot of time training in in all sorts of boats from, yes, the plastic sit-on-top (in races we can spend up to 12 hours on these. As such, my rear end has experienced its fair share of soreness and butt cramps!)to fast surf skis and everything in between. I learned to paddle in open ocean and swift moving rivers with the occasional rafting excitement thrown in.

During this process I started to appreciate the beauty of paddling. Some people are drawn to the water from a very young age but I wasn't one of them. I love all sports on terra firma that involve the use of my legs (think cycling and running) with no constraints of movement (sitting inside a kayak for hours unable to move my legs much took some getting used to!). To me the water was something to admire from a distance or for an occasional dip to cool off.

Through paddling I not only found a sport that gave me an upper body workout (to balance all my running and biking) but also discovered a sport that took me places I never would have seen or experienced otherwise. That's what I love most about paddling. When you paddle through the jungle on a slow moving river, you're experiencing your surroundings from a completely new perspective. Paddling allows you to access places you otherwise wouldn't be able to get to. With a small and non-motorized boat you get through narrow waterways and experience nature without disturbing it. And, you don't have to go far from home to experience this. I live in Los Angeles and when I paddle in the marina or out in the open ocean, I can look back at my city and experience it in a unusual and enjoyable way (away from the noise and traffic). One of my favorite things to do is to paddle out to sea at night and look back at the brightly lit city. I can see and feel the energy of the city from the tranquility of my kayak.

When I paddle at night, I make sure to have the right boat lights on the craft so I can be well seen and follow my local regulations. And to see my surroundings, I use Light & Motion's (they make underwater light systems for professional photographers so they know a thing or two about lights and water!) Solite 250EX or the Stella 500. If I need a focused and powerful beam, I use the Stella 500. This is my go to light in racing when I need to find checkpoints along a shoreline. It's super light, durable, and once connected to the battery is waterproof. I wear it on my head using their headstrap and clip the battery to my waist or put it in my backpack if I'm paddling with a pack. If I don't need as much power and don't want to deal with a cable, then I use the super compact and ultra light Solite 250EX that has both the light and battery on the headstrap. This light can also but attached to whitewater or climbing type helmets when paddling whitewater. The Solite is the one I use for all my night training sessions. If you're going to paddle at night, get yourself a quality waterproof light like one of these. It will make your experience that much better. But, don't forget to turn off the light every now and then to enjoy the night sky.

Paddling has given me an entirely different perspective on my city and other places I was fortunate to visit during my races and training trips. If you haven't tried paddling yet, give it a try, especially night paddling. It's amazing!

Cyril Jay-Rayon
adventurer - athlete - entrepreneur